There are many recommendations on the best ways to motivate employees. Here are three steps that any team leader can take to and fuel teamwork.
Remote work may have multiple benefits in terms of flexibility and cost efficiency. However, one of its biggest cons is employee isolation from other team members. When telecommuting, workers have fewer chances to build strong, positive relationships with colleagues. In this context, it is also much harder to communicate with them in real time as effectively as it is possible in regular office environments.
This disadvantage has many repercussions since working with persons we like not only increases our job satisfaction but also boosts performance by improving motivation and group dynamics. Hence, online team building can become a real rescue to both the spirit of remote teams and their organizational behaviors.
Virtual team building activities are great for fostering
- employee engagement and commitment,
- team cohesion,
- better professional communication and decision making,
- resilience and psychological resources needed to cope with stress and overcome challenges successfully.
All of the above is particularly relevant today as, due to pandemic, people are compelled to leave their habitual workplaces and start to work from home, often suffering from the reduced quality of team interactions, low morale and fear of uncertainty.
With this in mind, we have prepared a list of 8 best online team building practices you can engage in with your colleagues during these difficult times.
What is Online Team Building?
The term “team building” refers to organized efforts undertaken to make a group of individual employees a closely bonded and highly cooperative team of professionals. These efforts can take place in the form of
- corporate culture development strategies,
- promotion of daily interactions at the workplace,
- special exercises, events and games meant to bring teammates closer and encourage them to learn more about each other.
When speaking of online team building, it serves the very same purposes as team building in the physical environment but is administered solely via digital tools. While eliminating any opportunity for physical contact, virtual team building primarily rests upon communicative activities and experience sharing events.
Virtual Team Building Activities
Team building may sound like a chore for some, yet in reality, it can be exceptionally amusing and rewarding. When initiating occasions to gather all staff members together, you don’t need to follow standard models and stick to formalities. Instead, aim to experiment, innovate and diversify the life of your team.
Here are the 8 possible ways to do this:
1. Digital Team Building Exercises
Various team building games and exercises are meant to develop different team qualities and satisfy a wide range of team needs. Therefore, the choice of a team building exercise should always start with the identification of goals you aspire to attain:
- Would you like to promote collaboration, problem solving and decision making in your team?
- Are you looking for creativity and innovation boost?
- Do your workers have some trust issues?
- Do you think it would be wonderful to introduce more fun in the work process?
- Is there a necessity to bring about more opportunities for employees to open up and form friendships?
If you want to “break the ice” and let everyone get to know each other better, fix up Two Truths and a Lie. In this game, each participant is expected to make two correct and one false statement about themselves, while other players are asked to guess which one of those statements is a lie. What’s great about Two Truths and a Lie is that it can be played in both the textual and the audio / video format in any preferred messenger app.
Another example is PowerPoint Karaoke that can be carried out in a video conferencing app. The game is perfect if you would like to reduce stress and share some laughter with your colleagues. When playing, participants should make improvised slideshow presentations about their lives, without being aware of the slides’ contents beforehand – fun is guaranteed.
For idea exchange and brainstorming, a Learning Circle exercise is a great option. This activity assembles team members and encourages them to discuss opinions and thoughts regarding any topic of interest openly. Thus, it allows expanding knowledge horizons and finding innovative and effective solutions.
Overall, regardless of your team building intent, you may always find a few good games and exercises that would assist your team in attaining the desired results and strengthening ties among employees even if they’re working remotely.
2. Online Challenges
Participation in online challenges is core to the livelihood of many YouTubers and bloggers these days. You likely saw yourself more than once how a particular challenge had suddenly turned into a viral trend until another ridiculous, stranger thing seized everybody’s attention.
Though you might have never assumed getting involved in one of these online challenges before, the time has probably come to test them out. These challenges can be utilized as a kind of team building activities that will enable you and your colleagues to pass some memorable moments together and cheer up.
Here are a few options to jump on:
- Cinnamon Challenge – the only requirement is to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon, which is much harder to do than it sounds. Thus, the sight of a person trying to complete this challenge is usually extremely comical.
- The Disney Challenge – this one is a competition where you need to listen to Disney songs and guess the names of cartoons they originate from. To administer the challenge correctly, one of the participants should play the role of a referee – a sort of a Disney world expert – responsible for orchestrating the songs, counting scores and announcing the winner. Albeit this game calls for preliminary preparation, the amount of joy you may get when taking part in it is definitely worth the effort.
- Speed Drawing – the ultimate goal of this challenge is to sketch the most beautiful picture than everyone else within the timeframe of 1-2 minutes. The subject, genre and media of your drawing can be pretty much anything. The number of participants is unlimited as well, but it would be better – for the sake of fun – if most of them don’t know how to draw well. On this condition, speed drawing guarantees an adrenaline boost and frequent bursts of hysterical laughter.
3. Chat Rooms
There is hardly anything more uplifting and healing than a good conversation with a like-minded person. For those workers missing a decent talk and downhearted due to social isolation, chatting can become not less than a soul medicine.
Therefore, a group chat where everyone is allowed to express their thoughts and feelings can take your team a long way in strengthening personal ties and establishing a sense of support and belonging.
You may set up thematic chat rooms dedicated to discussions on specific topics: pet care, martial arts, baking, animation movies, traveling and gardening, to name a few. Such theme-related chats allow remote employees to find friends of the same interests and unwind through meaningful conversations after long days of work. However, to arrange one of them and ensure it’s actively used and popular enough, you may need to carry out small research of your colleagues’ interests, for instance, via a poll.
4. Corporate Traditions
As practices shared and regularly practiced by members of a single community, traditions promote fellow feeling and the sense of unity and meaning. Therefore, they are key to stronger team cohesion.
When bringing traditions into being, it’s high time to get creative and tap into the very depth of your imagination. Some of your traditional practices can be as simple as a collective coffee break on Skype every Monday. Along with this, your corporate culture may include a few more elaborate and entertaining traditions, for example:
- a monthly reading competition, followed by online discussions and rewards for the lettered winners;
- or a custom to wear bizarre handmade costumes during work hours every first day of the month (with photo evidence provided in a group chat, of course).
Overall, traditions are your chance to demonstrate that remote work and social distancing are not sufficient excuses to forget about pleasure. They are the best means to remind employees of their inclusion in the team and are useful for diversifying the organization’s way of life.
5. Online Fitness Classes
Confined in a limited space of our apartments, we often find an easy way out. Food, binge watching, irresistible comfort of beds can indeed provide the sought-after consolation. Nonetheless, when indulged in for too long, they imperceptibly make us lazy, unenergetic and depressed.
In contrast, exercising (and especially group exercising) keeps us toned and perked. Thanks to modern technologies, there is no need to wait for the quarantine to be over to practice fitness – you may have part in training sessions right in your home.
Ways to approach the arrangement of online fitness classes for your team are many:
- Purchase one of the predesigned online fitness programs, such as those created by Fitness Blender, and share access with your colleagues. In this way, everyone will be able to exercise independently, at the time that is most convenient for them. Afterward, you may discuss individual experiences and progress with your teammates in a group chat.
- Invite your colleagues to participate in a live stream fitness class. CorePower Yoga, Peloton and Obé are merely a few of the examples. Both free and paid live streaming programs are available. The only difficulty is to find a class with a schedule suitable for all the team members willing to participate.
- Arrange an online class with a local fitness coach and stream it right to employees’ homes through any video conferencing platform. The primary benefit of this approach is that you get a customized fitness program tailored specifically to your team’s needs and interests.
6. Online Lessons
Like in the case with fitness, any educational experience can now be transferred online. You may
- purchase a ready-made online course and share access with other interested teammates;
- arrange your own online classes and knowledge sharing sessions by using Skype or a similar app of your choice;
- subscribe to live group lessons with certified teachers on any of the Web-based education platforms, such as Voxy and TakeLessons.
Online learning opportunities are now countless, and it’s very easy to find classes on any subject you can possibly imagine. Therefore, while education on topics relevant to your team’s specialization seems to be a logical way to go, you may experiment and explore something unexpected and entertaining instead.
Accounting and customer service are excellent subjects, no doubt, but what about movie history, robotics, knitting, comics drawing, origami or vintage fashion? By selecting one of the alternative themes to study, you and your colleagues will create a lot of positive memories together and add more amusement to corporate life.
7. Multiplayer Video and Online Games
In an average adult person’s perception, video games are leisure activities for geek teenagers that serve the mere purpose of killing time. Nevertheless, online video games are much more than that. They are sociable media or, in other words, instruments and environments created to encourage communication and establish interpersonal connections. As it’s easy to presume, this quality makes video and online gaming a fertile soil for effective team building.
The illustrious World of Warcraft is not the only game you may play with your colleagues. If the very thought of sword fighting, fantasy kingdoms and night elves makes you cringe, just choose another great option from a multitude of less famous but equally fun and high-quality games that exist today:
- Spaceteam – a digital game for 2-8 players who must cooperate to navigate their ship and prevent its explosion due to various cosmic dangers and management issues. For an unforgettable gaming experience, each of the teammates should install the app on their mobile device. Besides, you will need an additional digital communication channel to gently shout commands at each other.
- Overcooked – a beautifully designed game you can play with up to 4 teammates. As fellow chefs dwelling in the Onion Kingdom, you will interact while cooking and serving food for demanding customers in a variety of odd environments. Through this experience, your team is sure to learn how to organize its work processes and collaborate more effectively.
- Fortnite Battle Royale – this game is packed with intense action (and a bit of kid-friendly violence), which makes it a perfect stress relief remedy and a great option for sharing a break with your colleagues. You can play the game as a duo or a squad of 3-4 members. The goal is simple: search the area for items that could help you stay alive for as long as possible and try to eliminate your rivals one by one. Together with your mates, you have much more chances to outperform competitors and win the whole thing.
8. Online Corporate Parties and Meetups
When working remotely, it is easy to miss out on holidays and organizational events that would otherwise be celebrated at the office, in a lively circle of your colleagues and friends. Such celebrations are essential for an employee to develop a feeling of commitment to the company. They show that being a part of a team is not just about work but also about human connections and savoring other facets of life side by side with one another.
For this reason, public holidays, as well as all the important organizational episodes, shouldn’t be ignored after shifting towards remote work but must be honored online.
The simplest way to mark a special day in the virtual space is by writing a sincere and inspiring congratulations message to your colleagues in a group chat. However, such an approach isn’t always sufficient. When you feel there is a vital necessity for a larger-scale fling, throw a party.
Yes, you’ve understood it right – parties can also be held online, and they can be damn splendid.
To arrange one of those, you may follow a scenario based on the experience of SoftwareMill’s remote team as described by Tomasz Szymański, the company’s CEO:
- Choose a date, agree on a time and instruct everyone to get some drinks and food in advance;
- Plan entertaining activities – any of the team building / online games and exercises described above will do – and think of the optimal way to group employees for playing them;
- Gather your party-goers in a video conferencing platform, such as Zoom, at the predetermined time (and don’t forget to take a snap);
- Start playing games by using tools that provide users with space to sit at virtual tables, as well as draw and write stuff on a whiteboard, for instance, Remo or a much cheaper option – Google Meet;
- Enjoy your time together for as long as you are willing and have the energy to hang around online.
If you miss Friday night meetups with your teammates and want your virtual partying experience to be as close to real life as possible, consider visiting an online bar.
Stay the F*** Home Bar is an excellent alternative to your local drinking places during the quarantine. There, you can share a drink or two with up to 12 friends in a private video conference room (or simply drink with strangers from all around the world, pretty much like in a regular bar).
What’s particularly appealing about the SFHB is that many existing international bars, as well as entertainment and educational projects, have started to install their own spots there, and it is reasonable to expect their number to grow in the future.
If you and your mates want to have some quality time in the remote mode – not just consuming alcohol but practicing cocktail making, learning new things at cool lectures and watching good movies – you are more than welcome to this virtual bar. It is possibly the only Web-based location that will make you feel as if you’re out in the night while curling up safely at home.
Online team building is rarely dull, yet besides supplying immense delight, activities described in this article will assist you in
- stress reduction,
- development of closer relationships,
- diversification of daily routines.
By performing them, your team will form more positive attitudes to their job and become more efficient and productive professionally. Additionally, these activities will strengthen your teammates’ stamina and help them cope with the adversities of social distancing much better.
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